Outsourcing Necessary In Sub Par Organizations

I just read “International Outsourc-ing: Values vs. Economics” in the August issue (George C. Elliott, p. 20) and find the argument unconvincing.

If I have the choice to create a stable process, then outsource and do it again, or outsource, save money and then create a stable process, the choice is clear. Off shoring or outsourcing can improve quality and save costs.

Organizations, managers and employees should understand that if they have not created a stable, repeatable and continually improving process and culture, they are good candidates to be off shored. As a responsible executive, I should start over and try to create those things cheaper somewhere else.

My experience is that it is easier and cheaper to create a new, better culture than to fix an existing bad culture that accepts rework, scrap, process variation, customer dissatisfaction and cost overruns.

The Mexican and Chinese plants I work with have half the defects and fewer warranty claims than my U.S. and Canadian plants and are improving at a faster rate. My evidence suggests that if I care about quality and customer satisfaction, I should offshore more, not less.

If I already have a plant culture of continuous improvement, cost reduction and pride of workmanship, I would hesitate to relocate because it will take more resources to recreate them somewhere else.

My mantra is, “If you can’t do it right, at least do it cheaper,” so do it right or you do not deserve to stay in business. If you are waiting for the outsourcing plan to be announced before you get serious about quality, it is too late.


Barbecue Article Entertaining, Not Valuable

I was entertained by your article on quality barbeques (“Documenting the Process—With a Side of Slaw,” Leon Lynn and John Kalfayan, p. 50, August 2006). However, it is a waste of valuable magazine space that could be used for more appropriate topics.

The details are ridiculous. I like barbeques, and my wife does too—but to put it to that much detail? Sorry, I’m not that passionate, I guess.

If attention is what you’re looking for with this article, you certainly got it. But please—consider your audience in the future.

Reading, PA, chapter

Franklin’s Column Heartwarming

Regarding Jim Franklin’s column, “A Perfect Corrective Action” (Quality in the First Person, p. 76, August 2006): It’s not often we can use the word heartwarming in our profession, but this story certainly is.

Congratulations, Jim, on solving your daughter’s critical problem with a quality tool. Best of luck to you both.

EPIC Technologies
Johnson City, TN

Corrective Action Question

I’m a little confused about “A Perfect Corrective Action.” The daughter being stabilized in the hospital was the corrective action. Would the fishbone diagram fall under root cause analysis?

Or does Jim Franklin consider the entire process of corrective action, root cause analysis and preventive action as a corrective action?

Mid-America Transplant Services
St. Louis

Author’s Response:

You are right; the fishbone diagram is a root cause analysis tool.

In looking at this from a purely quality assurance standpoint, the hospital did stabilize my daughter’s condition, but that was an interim corrective action. It did not address the root cause, which was her using the injector pen incorrectly.

Any problem will reoccur if its root cause is not eliminated. I used a fishbone diagram to determine the root cause of the problem so that we would be in a position to correct it once it was identified.

I would not lump the entire process as a corrective action. Rather, the corrective action is the action taken to eliminate the root cause, permanently preventing the problem from reoccurring.


Six Sigma, Lean Could Solve Brain Drain

Fank Lindborg is certainly on the mark by pointing out a major crisis that many U.S. organizations are about to face—a shortage of qualified technical professionals (“Worldwide Demographic Crossroad Nears,” p. 81, August 2006). Unfortunately, many organizations have been so transfixed on downsizing to contain costs they have neglected this looming threat to their competitiveness.

As a Six Sigma and lean practitioner, I firmly believe part of the solution might lie with tools such as Six Sigma and lean, with their focus on process discipline, variation reduction and waste elimination.

Core to the Six Sigma methodology is the capture, transfer and validation of knowledge from process owners, making Six Sigma ideal for dealing with organizational brain drain. Organizations should view Six Sigma not only as a tool to drive productivity and service, but also as an essential method for critical knowledge management.

Six Sigma lends itself nicely to capturing and validating critical process knowledge that might otherwise be lost when key talent leaves an organization.

Lean can also aid organizations as they deal with this imminent crisis, with tools such as value stream mapping and standardized work. These can help identify and eliminate nonvalue added processes that waste human capital, which can then be redeployed.

Six Sigma and lean are only part of the solution. Business leaders will first need to recognize the short-term solutions of the past will not work and accept the landscape for talent management will change dramatically, requiring a more balanced and comprehensive solution to remain competitive.

Avery Point Group
Mystic, CT


In the September 2006 Quality in the First Person, (“SPC, Not Just for Geeks,” Katrina Kruger, p. 72), the location of the Mission Plastics North plant at which the author worked was incorrectly noted as Ontario. Kruger actually worked at Mission Plastics North in Grandwview, MO. The editors apologize for the error.

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